Social Media Success Strategies for Military Transition

Social Media Success Strategies for Military Transition

There is excellent advice here on on developing your online presence, branding, and use of social media (see the bottom for links to more information).

Transitioning military have several special issues.

Timing Your Social Media Launch

Whether you are creating your first LinkedIn profile or already have one, it is vital to  your job search.

Start at least one year before the date you expect to leave active duty. 

Other social media can also be used, but LinkedIn is designed specifically for business so learn to use it well.

Starting early gives you time to:

  • Learn how to use social media effectively for job search,
  • Research career fields and target companies
  • Reconnect with people you know
  • Build your professional network
  • Develop relationships with people who might help you

None of this is set in concrete, so you can change and should change your social media profiles as your goals become more clear, but waiting to start until after you have left active duty will handicap your job search.

[Related: Military Career Exit Strategy and Online Reputation Management.]

Start with LinkedIn

Whether you are creating your first LinkedIn profile or already have one, an effective LinkedIn Profile is vital to your job search.

Other social media can also be used, but LinkedIn is designed specifically for business so learn to use it well.

[Related: Guide to Using LinkedIn for Job Search.]

Your Photo in Social Media

Once you are thinking transition, change your profile photograph to one in civilian clothes. This shows you are making the mental transition back to the civilian world. It entices hiring managers, recruiters, and potential contacts to look at your profile.

Choose a picture that is head and shoulders view, in standard business attire, where you are smiling. Senior level? Have a professional headshot? They are nice, but a great personal photo or selfie can work.

Many military have a difficult time using a civilian photo. This is a regular discussion point online and in transition programs. Far too many think that their “fruit salad” or rank will impress civilians. But, mostly it sends the message “I am not ready, I don’t want to change.” 

[Related: “Social Proof” Requires a Consistent Identity.]

What Information to Publish in Social Media

A LinkedIn profile offers you the opportunity to put your qualifications and achievements where over 90% of recruiters look for candidates. Impress potential hiring managers and others who may be looking at it before meeting or helping you. So read all about ways to use your profile effectively here and on LinkedIn’s help site.

The biggest mistakes most military make are:

  • Lack of focus
  • Use of military lingo and acronyms
  • Limited or irrelevant achievements

Focus is critical!

For a useful profile, you must decide what you want to do next.  Express that in your headline.

Demonstrate, using your past relevant achievements, how you can do what you want to do. Nothing else is as important as demonstrating your value for the employers you are targeting and the job you are interested in. 

Most of us have enough variety in our military careers that we hate to leave anything out – we think we can do anything. But employers seek specific backgrounds, experiences, training, and achievements.

[Related: Veterans Focus for Success and 3 Key Elemsnts Required for a Successful Job Search.]

Replace military language.

Translating your military lingo back into civilian terms can be a challenge.  Start with any of the military translators but do not think they will solve all your issues. Look at the profiles of other vets for ideas. Choose realistic, simple titles.

[More: Translating Military Experience.]

Achievements are essential.

Look at your work but investigate additional duties and side jobs for relevant achievements too:

  • Think of past successes.
  • Create great stories from those successes.

Then, pare those successes down to bullet points for your resume and profile.  Be sure they are important to your target audience.

I recently reviewed a profile for an NCO  who wanted to transition into human resources work. He had good skills and achievements.

However, he buried them under bullets about weight control programs, drug testing, OJT administration, and other things that civilian HR doesn’t do. So no-one saw his value.

[Related: Avoid Self-Sabotage: 8 Common Job Search Errors.]

Asking for Help

LinkedIn has a lot of great groups for veterans. Some are branch or career specific. Others are mentors, coaches, or educational, corporate, professional and advocacy organizations.

Learn to ask for specific help.

Example: ask people in your desired work field to review your profile and make suggestions.

Look at the profiles of people in the jobs you want for ideas and tips. Ask your connections for info.


Be very careful where and how you vent online. These are public spaces, easily searched by potential employers. People who whine, play victim, or are very negative are not people employers want to hire.

I have heard that complaining constantly is now encouraged in the military, but it is not in the civilian world, and can hinder your success in job search!

Got LinkedIn up and working well? Then, look into Twitter, Facebook (carefully!), Tumblr, and all the others to see which might be best for you.

More Information About Social Media

More Information About Transition Job Search

Patra FrameAbout the author…

Patra Frame has extensive experience in human capital management and career issues in large and small corporations. She is an Air Force vet and charter member of The Women In Military Service for America Memorial.  Patra speaks and writes regularly on job search and career issues through her company Strategies for Human Resources (SHRInsight) and where she blogs advice for veterans and other job seekers. Watch Patra’s job search tips videos on YouTube, and follow her on Twitter @2Patra.
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